Monday, August 24, 2009

A Whole Tuna and Gluten-Free Wedding Cake

I have major blogger guilt. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but this time it's even worse. It's been weeks since I wrote something here, but I've been cooking and composing blogs in my head the whole time. So now of course I feel totally overwhelmed by the amount of mental backlog I have. Instead of looking back, I'm just going to start in at the present with two really big slightly silly things.

Thing 1: I bought a whole tuna. Really, feel free to laugh at me. I could say it was "only" a 12 pound fish, but even that sounds huge. But it was local albacore, pole-and-line caught, and on sale for only $3 per pound! Holy cow, that's amazing. There's definitely something to be said for buying a ton of the freshest, most sustainable fish you can find and then freezing it until it's needed.

The fish counter guys cut it up in front of me into eight nicely wrapped packages, and I've frozen six. Part of one got grilled for a tuna burger, while the other part got pan-seared, topped with chopped orange cherry tomatoes and a generous squirt of fresh lime, and eaten for dinner. (I'll put up a picture just as soon as I can find my camera cord--where the heck has it gone?)

The last tuna package is in the fridge, probably waiting to be combined with CSA green beans, tomatoes, and lettuce and turned into the world's best nicoise salad ever. I'm very excited to play with so much fish. I'm not even too worried about mercury, because my best friend Samia (Miss I-wrote-my-senior-thesis-on-mercury-contamination) assured me that such a small tuna wouldn't have bioaccumulated enough to be particularly dangerous.

Thing 2: I'm baking a gluten-free wedding cake. Again, feel free to laugh. The bride is a friend of Torian's whom I've never met, but we've decided over email on a smallish two-tier carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Her cake stand is 12 inches across, so the layers will probably be eight-inch and six-inch rounds, each made up of two layers of cake. I've never baked gluten-free before, so this is a bit of a fun challenge for me.

I made a first attempt yesterday, halving this recipe with a few modifications for a more basic flavor. Considering it was my first gluten-free cake ever, I thought the first carrot cake turned out pretty well. A bit too moist and gooey, but I think that could be solved with a combination of more baking time, drying the shredded carrot, fewer egg yolks, and/or more gluten-free flour mixture. I'll try again in a day or two, see if I can't get the texture to improve. It's a decent base, at least. The fun part will be dolling it up with different flavors and such. Here are the three I'm currently thinking:

Flavor 1: Fresh. Crystallized ginger and lemon zest in the cake, some sort of ginger/lemon cream cheese frosting.
Flavor 2: Tropical. Coconut flakes in the cake, pineapple curd between layers? (I don't want to add crushed pineapple to the already gooey cake), coconut (and rum?) cream cheese frosting.
Flavor 3: Warm. Up the cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves, raisins and nuts in the cake, real vanilla bean cream cheese frosting.

One question is what do I put between the same-sized layers--the same cream cheese frosting as the outside? Or some sort of fruit curd or jam? I'm worried the cake is going to be too gooey and not have enough structure with a filling, but then I also don't want it to go on sugar overload with so much frosting. Ideas?

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